How to work with ELLs in a classroom and a Freebie

Like many schools, mine has a growing ELL population. In many ways they are more challenging then my LD students but here are a couple ideas that might help you while working with these students. I have found changing up my instruction and adding a couple of different ideas work for ALL students.

English language learners (ELLs) face academic challenges as they work to acquire conversational language skills, as well as the more formal academic language they need to learn content in English. When teaching ELL students, it is important to remember that just like native speakers, ELL students bring a wealth of background experiences into your classroom and have a range of learning style preferences and cultural backgrounds, all of which should be considered when planning their reading instruction.

Who Are ELL Students?

Are trying to acquire English language proficiency, while in English-speaking classrooms. My goal is to help them master the English language, while enabling them to maintain their native language and culture. Students are trying to gain knowledge and experiences in the four domains of language learning:  listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

  • Will learn to use English in social interactions, both formally and informally. In this context, students need abundant opportunities to interact with proficient English speakers in a range of settings. By facilitating these interactions around meaningful topics, you will help students gain exposure to a wide vocabulary and a range of topics they might not come across naturally.
  • Need to learn, and practice using, content-specific language so they can successfully learn, communicate, and extend academic content-area learning. 
  • Benefit from lessons rich with visual aids and non=linguistic cues. Picture books (especially nonfiction picture books) 
  • Benefit from model readings and hearing the English language read with fluency. Modeling is a great way for students to hear the English language read fluently while they follow along, viewing both the text and art.
  • Model fluent reading. While listening to a story being read aloud, readers can track each word as it is highlighted. In this way, students make sound-symbol correlations between the words and audio pronunciations.
  • Utilize graphic organizers. After listening to a book, students can draw pictures illustrating the beginning, middle, and end of the book on a graphic organizer. 
  • Students can further build their vocabulary using the infer-and-define strategy in which students infer the meaning of an unknown word and then clarify it by using a student made dictionary.  Students can add their newly acquired words into their personal dictionaries.  
  • Use guided reading.  As you work with your ELL students to teach and model reading strategies.
  • Use conferencing, explicit modeling, and think-alouds to guide ELL students in thinking critically about the texts they read. 
  • Use inferential questions in the notes section of your students' text to encourage critical thinking about the text. Seeing these preview questions before they read will provide students with a reading focus and will require them to analyze the text and synthesize information as they read.   
  • Encourage evaluation. Students are working toward synthesizing and evaluating information and responding to reading through writing.  Use this time to guide students in evaluating their own opinions based on the text.  

I hope these ideas help you out in the classroom or in small group. Do't forget to get your sentence writing visual freebie. Have a great week.

What is Phonological and Phonemic Awareness??

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Phonological awareness is a broad skill that includes identifying and manipulating units of oral language – parts such as words, syllables, and onsets and rimes. Children who have phonological awareness are able to identify and make oral rhymes, can clap out the number of syllables in a word, and can recognize words with the same initial sounds like 'money' and 'mother.'

Phonemic awareness refers to the specific ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Phonemes are the smallest units comprising spoken language. Phon
emes combine to form syllables and words. For example, the word 'mat' has three phonemes: /m/ /a/ /t/. There are 44 phonemes in the English language, including sounds represented by letter combinations such as /th/. Acquiring phonemic awareness is important because it is
the foundation for spelling and word recognition skills. Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of how well children will learn to read during the first two years of school instruction.

Students at risk for reading difficulty often have lower levels of phonological awareness and phonemic awareness than do their classmates. The good news is that phonemic awareness and phonological awareness can be developed through a number of activities.

What the problem looks like:

A kid's perspective: What this feels like to me


  • Children will usually express their frustration and difficulties in a general way, with statements like "I hate reading!" or "This is stupid!". But if they could, this is how kids might describe how difficulties with phonological or phonemic awareness affect their reading:
  • I don't know any words that rhyme with cat.
  • What do you mean when you say, "What sounds are in the word brush?"
  • I'm not sure how many syllables are in my name.
  • I don't know what sounds are the same in bit and hit.


A parent's perspective: What I see at home

Here are some clues for parents that a child may have problems with phonological or phonemic awareness:

  • She has difficulty thinking of rhyming words for a simple word like cat (such as rat or bat).
  • She doesn't show interest in language play, word games, or rhyming.
  • Click here to find out what parents can do to help a child at home.
  • A teacher's perspective: What I see in the classroom
  • Here are some clues for teachers that a student may have problems with phonological or phonemic awareness:
  • She doesn't correctly complete blending activities; for example, put together sounds /k/ /i/ /ck/ to make the word kick.
  • He doesn't correctly complete phoneme substitution activities; for example, change the /m/ in mate to /cr/ in order to make crate.
  • He has a hard time telling how many syllables there are in the word paper.
  • He has difficulty with rhyming, syllabication, or spelling a new word by its sound.

How to help

With the help of parents and teachers, kids can learn strategies to cope with phonological and/or phonemic awareness problems that affect his or her reading. Below are some tips and specific things to do.

What kids can do to help themselves

  • Be willing to play word and sounds games with parents or teachers.
  • Be patient with learning new information related to words and sounds. Giving the ears a workout is difficult!
  • Practice hearing the individual sounds in words. It may help to use a plastic chip as a counter for each sound you hear in a word.
  • Be willing to practice writing. This will give you a chance to match sounds with letters.
  • What parents can do to help at home
  • Check with your child's teacher or principal to make sure the school's reading program teaches phonological, phonemic awareness, and phonics skills.
  • If your child is past the ages at which phonemic awareness and phonological skills are taught class-wide (usually kindergarten to first or second grade), make sure he or she is receiving one-on-one or small group instruction in these skills.
  • Do activities to help your child build sound skills (make sure they are short and fun; avoid allowing your child to get frustrated):
  • Help your child think of a number of words that start with the /m/ or /ch/ sound, or other beginning sounds.
  • Make up silly sentences with words that begin with the same sound, such as "Nobody was nice to Nancy's neighbor".
  • Play simple rhyming or blending games with your child, such as taking turns coming up with words that rhyme (go – no) or blending simple words (/d/, /o/, /g/ = dog).
  • Read books with rhymes. Teach your child rhymes, short poems, and songs.
  • Practice the alphabet by pointing out letters wherever you see them and by reading alphabet books.
  • Consider using computer software that focuses on developing phonological and phonemic awareness skills. Many of these programs use colorful graphics and animation that keep young children engaged and motivated.

What teachers or parents can do to help at school?

  • Learn all about phonemes (there are more than 40 speech sounds that may not be obvious to fluent readers and speakers).
  • Make sure the school's reading program and other materials include skill-building in phonemes, especially in kindergarten and first grade (these skills do not come naturally, but must be taught).
  • If children are past the age at which phonemic awareness and phonological skill-building are addressed (typically kindergarten through first or second grade), attend to these skills one-on-one or in a small group. Ask your school's reading specialist for help finding a research-based supplemental or intervention program for students in need.
  • Identify the precise phoneme awareness task on which you wish to focus and select developmentally appropriate activities for engaging children in the task. Activities should be fun and exciting – play with sounds, don't drill them.
  • Make sure your school's reading program and other materials include systematic instruction in phonics.
  • Consider teaching phonological and phonemic skills in small groups since students will likely be at different levels of expertise. Remember that some students may need more reinforcement or instruction if they are past the grades at which phonics is addressed by a reading program (first through third grade).

I hope these ideas help and answer some questions for parents. Have a great week.

What does a Speech therapist do?

What Do Speech Therapists Help With?

Speech therapists help people of all ages with different speech and language disorders. Here are some of them:
  • articulation disorders: This when a kid has trouble saying certain sounds or saying words correctly. "Run" might come out as "won." Or "say" may sound like "thay." Lisps are considered articulation disorders.
  • fluency disorders: If a kid repeats certain sounds and has trouble saying the complete word, he or she may have fluency disorder. For example, a kid trying to say "story" might get stuck on the "st" and say "st-st-st-story." Or he or she might draw out certain sounds and say "ssssssstory." A stutter is a fluency disorder
  • voice disorders: A kid might have a voice disorder if people have trouble understanding him or her. The kids might start a sentence loud and clear, but it's quiet and mumbling by the end. Sometimes these kids sound like they have a cold or like they're talking through their noses.
  • language disorders: A kid who has trouble understanding people or has trouble putting words together to express thoughts might have a language disorder.

Who Needs Speech Therapy?

It's a great way to learn to speak more clearly. Sometimes students have a medical condition that makes speaking more difficult. Here are some of them:
  • hearing impairment
  • weak muscles around the mouth
  • cleft lip or palate
  • vocal nodules/ hoarseness
  • autism
  • breathing disorder
  • swallowing disorder

What's It Like?


Visiting a speech therapist for the first time will take a speaking test. This test is a way of finding out what types of speech problems. The student will be asked to say certain sounds and words. These may be recorded and the therapist might write some stuff down during the test. The test will help the therapist figure out the student's needs and decide what treatments are needed.

The "treatment" for speech problems is practice. If a student has trouble with articulation or fluency, the therapist will spend time showing him or her how to make the proper sounds. The therapist will demonstrate the sounds and ask the student to try to copy them. That means copying the way the therapist moves the lips, mouth, and tongue to make the right sound.

Mirrors can be helpful here. The therapist might ask the student to make these sounds while looking in the mirror. Some therapists use games to make this practice more fun.

If your therapist is helping you with a language disorder, your sessions may seem a little like school. He or she will help you with grammar — how to put words together properly to form clear statements and thoughts. If you have difficulties with understanding what you hear, you may play games that work on these skills, such as Simon Says.

How Long Will Treatment Last?

Some treatments are short and others are longer. It depends on the problem the student is working on. A student might see the therapist once a week or a few times a week. Treatment can take a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.


If you have speech problem, the best advice is to practice, practice, practice. Find time to work on the skills the therapist has shown you. Maybe spend some time before bed practicing in front of a mirror. Ask your parent to work with you.

I hope your summer break is break is restful. I can't believe that its half over.

Fine Motor Skills-What are they?

Another area of development to encourage this year is fine motor skills -- or use of the hands. Just as gross motor skills enable your child to perform important everyday tasks, such as getting out of bed and going downstairs for breakfast, fine motor abilities allow for increasing independence in smaller but equally significant matters: opening doors, zipping zippers, brushing teeth, washing hands, and so on.

When combined with increasing hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills also open new doors to exploration, learning, and creative expression. In fact, research shows that emphasis on purely intellectual activities -- memorization of letters and numbers, for instance -- is far less useful at this stage than pursuits that encourage fine motor abilities and hand-eye coordination. These skills -- rather than counting or reciting the alphabet -- lay the foundation for academic learning in later years. In order to learn to write or draw, for example, a child's hand must be strong and coordinated enough to hold a pencil steady for a long period of time; in order to participate in school sports, games, and projects, dexterity and coordination must be up to par.

Among the fine motor skills your child will perfect in the preschool years are the abilities to:

  • paste things onto paper
  • lap hands
  • touch fingers
  • button and unbutton
  • work a zipper
  • build a tower of 10 blocks
  • complete puzzles with five or more pieces
  • manipulate pencils and crayons well enough to color and draw
  • copy a circle or cross onto a piece of paper
  • cut out simple shapes with safety scissors


The best way for you to help promote these and other hand-related skills is to provide your child with a wide range of materials to manipulate as her imagination dictates. Good choices include blocks (especially the interlocking types like magnetic blocks, Legos, bristle blocks, Tinker Toys, and construction straws), crayons, nontoxic and washable markers and paints, paste, glue, modeling clay, an easel, construction paper, safety scissors, a smock to guard against stained clothing, coloring books, and simple sewing cards. This is also a prime time for puzzles, sand and water toys, and musical instruments.

Encourage Your Child's Creativity

Once you've provided your child with the tools that inspire creativity, stand back and let him loose, even if things are likely to get rather messy. Preschoolers tend to focus more on process than on product. They throw themselves into exploring the properties and possibilities of materials like paint, mud, sand, water, and glue without worrying about the results. In fact, when your 3-year-old proudly displays his latest masterpiece, you should try not to ask, "What is it?" That question may have never even occurred to him.
Instead, admire the work for what it is: "That's really wonderful! Tell me just how you did it." Then, encourage him to explain to you in his own words how he felt and what he was thinking about while he was making it.

The less control you try to impose over your child's creativity, the better. This advice especially holds true when it comes to the hand your child favors. One of the milestones of this age is becoming right-handed or left-handed. In fact, handedness is an important sign of increasing brain organization. By age 4, some 90 percent of children have become clearly right-handed, while the rest have become dedicated southpaws.
The main determinant of handedness is heredity, so it's best not to tamper with your child's genetic predisposition. Left-handers are no less socially acceptable than righties. And when pressure from parents or preschool teachers induces a child to switch, doing so usually takes a long-term toll in emotional upset and poor coordination.

So let your child lead the way. And don't be alarmed if her fine motor skills progress more slowly than her gross motor development. Fine motor skills develop more slowly because the kinds of delicate movements that enable children to manipulate objects (stacking and nesting blocks or putting together puzzle pieces, for example) can be learned only over time with a lot of practice. Unfortunately, while most 3-year-olds will run happily for hours on a playground, few really have the patience to sit and copy a drawing of a circle or a cross over and over. And keep in mind that the smaller muscles of the body (like those in the hands and fingers) tire out more easily than the larger muscles in the arms and legs, so endurance and strength must be built up gradually before your child's dexterity can improve.

There's one more reason why your child's fine motor skills progress more slowly: They are closely linked to cognitive development. In order to build a fort with blocks, for instance, a child must be able to think in a three-dimensional manner. Adding limbs, hair, or facial features to an incomplete picture of a person means that your child is capable of understanding that two-dimensional drawings can symbolize real people. Your child must mentally compare the picture with stored images of what people look like to figure out what's missing from the drawing, and he must be able to manipulate a pencil or crayon well enough to fill in the absent features.

The thought process involved in such acts is far more complicated than that for figuring out how to climb a ladder, chase a ball, or walk out a door. So it's important for you to be patient, encouraging, and supportive of your child's efforts. Whatever he masters today will stand him in good stead once he starts more formal learning in kindergarten and beyond.

Summer Ideas: Check our Imagination Tree

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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